Not a Good Day to Die: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda
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Command refused to commit the forces required to achieve total victory in Afghanistan. Instead, they delegated responsibility for fighting the war's biggest battle-one that could have broken Al Qaeda and captured Osama bin Laden-to a hodge-podge of units thrown together at the last moment. At dawn on March 2, 2002, America's first major battle of the 21st century began. Over 200 soldiers of the 101st Airborne and 10th Mountain Divisions flew into Afghanistan's Shahikot valley-and into the mouth of a buzz saw. They were about to pay a bloody price for strategic, higher-level miscalculations that underestimated the enemy's strength and willingness to fight. Now, award-winning journalist Sean Naylor, an eyewitness to the battle, details the failures of military intelligence and planning, and vividly portrays the astonishing heroism of these young, untested U.S. soldiers. Denied the extra infantry, artillery, and attack helicopters with which they trained to go to war, these troops nevertheless proved their worth in brutal combat and-along with the exceptional daring of a small team of U.S. commandos-prevented an American military disaster.

Customer Reviews:

  • Not a Good Day to Read this Book
    This is the first book that was recommended by Amazon that I did not enjoy. Billed as an exciting military documentary, NAGDTD is a complex soap opera of bickering commands and politics with very little action. It's like reading the phone book. It's impossible to keep up with the hundreds of names and commands and relationships to make sense of the story. Sean Naylor obviously spent a great deal of time and research to document the book. He probably had an amazing experience in the field with the troops and it is probabaly an accurate account of what happened during operation anaconda, but he never succeeds in conveying this in a readable story. The meaning, action, plot and outcome are buried in boring minutia. I kept waiting for this book to get better, but it doesn't. I miss you Stephen Ambrose!...more info
  • Very interesting read
    A look into the way the modern military operates (or, in this case, fails to operate). The first few chapters do alot of name dropping so be prepared to spend alot of time reading through the logistical and command-decision backstory before you reach the 'action' accounts of the mission itself. However, learning this information is vital to appreciate what the guys on the ground had to go through, and more importantly, *why*.
    The book kind of trails off at the end, and the end of the book came a bit abruptly, I was expecting more of a post-op report, but that isn't included, which felt a little "odd" considering the amount of time devoted in the pages to the set up of the action. Still, a very informative read, I enjoyed it.

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  • Well written and enjoyable, BUT very biased
    Not a Good Day to Die tells the "intimate details" of Operation ANACONDA in Afghanistan during the early phases of ENDURING FREEDOM. The book is well written and Naylor has a knack for telling an interesting and entertaining tale. However, I was disturbed by the blatant bias in the book toward the Army. Having worked extensively with both Army and Navy Special Operations Forces, I have never found the SEALs lacking when compared to their Army Special Forces brethren, even in land-based operations. I've worked both with and for numerous personalities mentioned in the book and Naylor's judgement of certain Navy leaders seems to be more of a reflection of his dissatisfaction with the Navy refusing to be interviewed for the book (following operational security (OPSEC) procedures accorded by their command) rather than based on what actually occurred. It is unfortunate, since otherwise the novel was highly enjoyable, if not a bit OVER-informative of Special Ops TTPs (Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures). (Hello, OPSEC?)

    So overall, I recommend reading this book, but please keep in mind that what Naylor presents as "facts" are HIS version of what happened (and those of a select number of Army personnel willing to be interviewed - and, in some cases, reveal information that should have remained classified). To complete the picture, I recommend reading "Robert's Ridge" by Malcolm MacPherson in addition to this book, as it focuses on Takur Ghar and the SEALs' role at what would come to be known as "Roberts Ridge" in a less-biased way. Between the two books, the reader should have a pretty accurate view of what really happened....more info
  • A military operation at stake.
    At the very beginning of this book and without having any previous knowledge of Operation Anaconda, the feeling was that its content was about one of the innumerable account of a very successful performance carried jointly out by mainly U.S. armed services.
    With the onset of the plan for that Operation, there is a growing realization that things cannot go on as smoothly as you believed at the opening and could clearly become worse when interactions within services or forces are quite difficult to not say unfairly problematic. A spiralling trend of actions and, in certain cases, misbehaviours are putting an enormous strain on the units, which are already under a considerable stress because of the teething troubles they are trying to overcome during the execution of their operation.
    All accounts reach a crescendo, keeping you tied to the increasing uneasy developments, as you could have been involved in that same Operation. Even though, who covered the story is far from being allowed to have full access to classified information, the description of the events has been anyway very detailed and has given a clear picture of how certain dangerous circumstances are at an ever growing risk of human weakness.

    Vittorio Lipari
    San Giorgio
    ...more info
  • 4 stars for military folks, 1-2 stars for others
    1. as per my title, i think those with a strong military background especially army will like this book for the level of detail it provides. for others, it will probably prove to be an overly detailed (ie boring) book, all the made worse, by lack in a strong coherent narrative.

    2. furthermore, regardless of where you stand in regards to one's level of military knowledge, the book leaves one actually wanting for more information. information such as what ever happened to the seeming incompetent leaders, was there are responsibility taken for the poor communication which likely resulted in needless loss of life, what was the actual findings of the official investigation etc... if the author was concerned about the narrative as much as he is about the myriad of facts, he would have probably attended to this basic of story telling concepts. ...more info
  • An Excellent First Hand Account, but Hard to Follow Military Acronyms and Jargon
    This is a superb book about the fateful Operation Anaconda in the mountains of Afghanistan. As the author mentioned, it was a very complex set of events and the book must have been extremely difficult to write. Combat operations are like car wrecks, there are as many perspectives as witnesses. War is a dynamic set of events that are filled with improbable occurrences. For this reason it is most important to have excellent communication and coordination. During this operation both communication and coordination were lacking. This starts from the top on down. The President and the Secretary of Defense (SecDEf ) are to blame in both planning and distracting the top generals from combat operations. As William Kristol of the Weekly Standard put it, Rumsfeld's fundamental error is that his theory about the military is at odds with the president's geopolitical strategy. He wants this light, transformed military, but there is a real war to win, which involves using many troops and equipment to rebuild a critical region of the world. Thus the reluctance of the high command to commit the appropriate number of conventional troops and assets can be traced to this fundamental error Kristol refers. The book reflects this fact.

    A brief summary of significant items of critical concern and lessons to be learned are as follows:

    1. Overall strategy was that U.S. commanders were reluctant to put many American troops on the ground and had relied on their Afghan allies backed up by Special Forces. The American's faith were misplaced and the Afghan allies were not sufficient to block Osama bin Laden and his henchmen from escaping. Ref. page 10.
    2. General Franks declined to commit conventional troops to stop enemy fighters from escaping, causing the fight to slip through Hagenbeck's fingers. Ref. page 12.
    3. Special Forces had been created as part of the Army since 1952 and were treated as a bastard child. This did not keep CENTCOM from ensnaring Special Forces in a confusing and often conflicting chain of command that had nearly disastrous results. Ref. page 14.
    4. There was no coordination between the Navy Seals and the Army Rangers. Both are excellent in their environments, but they operate differently.
    5. The book is filled with complaints of lack of air support. On page 136 the author writes about Lieutenant General Chuck Wald, being the CFACC commander being replaced by Lieutenant General T. Michael "Buzz" Moseley. Wald had a background of flying the F-15E Strike Eagle, which is a ground attack role, and he understood the complex business of close air support. Moseley came from flying the F-15C, an air superiority fighter who had no experience in ground support. Wald had done an outstanding job and the change of commanders was made during the very complex, never-before-done operation in Afghanistan.
    6. To augment the situation furthermore, Moseley and the CFLCC commander, Lieutenant Mikolashek had a personality conflict that trickled down through their respective organizations. To make matters worse, during the critical last week of February, when Moseley should have been working with Mikolashek's and Hagenbeck's headquarters, Moseley was not at his desk at Prince Sultan Air Base, but was touring capitals in the CENTCOM region laying the diplomatic groundwork for the war with Iraq (page 271).
    7. As the author points out on page 132, there is an advantage to ground troops having artillery, especially if air support is in question. Especially during the daytime operations when the AC-130s could not operate and the enemy was the most active. At least a few artillery pieces would have relieved the burden of the daytime enemy attacks.
    8. The Pentagon thinking that the war in Afghanistan was all but won and victory was assured. The belief was that the enemy resistance had all but collapsed. Intelligence agencies assessed that the enemy would not stand and fight (page 120).
    9. This resulted in a loose organization being assembled with no definite chain of command and conflicting goals, operation tactics, and missions.
    10. The commanders in the field had limited exposure to CENTCOM in Tampa, Florida because of morning and afternoon meeting with SecDEf every morning and afternoon. The field commanders were not allowed to communicate with the CENTCOM starting two ours before the meeting, making most of the day unavailable to the field commanders.
    11. On page 303 the author describes the Air Force general Trebon, who had never commanded a ground combat operation before, was making tactical reconnaissance decisions.
    12. The TF Blue officer Lieutenant Commander Vic Hyder is described on pages 300-323 as the one who made the fateful mistake of Takur Ghar. The author pointed out that Hyder by-passed Lt. Col. Pete Blaber, who was still in command of the APO.

    The author looses one star with use of acronyms and military jargon that is hard to follow. The reader must read halfway through the book to figure some of the terms and references. For the people involved directly in the operation, these terms would probably be easy to comprehend. This is understandable trying to write about such a complex operation with so many misfires and events. I highly recommend this book for everyone trying to understand what is often not reported in the news. The author did an excellent job of piecing together a jigsaw puzzle with a million pieces.
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  • The Best and Worst of Battles
    In every war there are specific battles we come to remember, game-changers that cause those involved to question their assumptions, tactics and strategy. "Not a Good Day to Die: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda" gives us a glimpse into one of those battles. In March of 2002, after several decisive victories over the Taliban, American forces narrowly escaped disaster in Afghanistan's Shahikot Valley fighting a severely underestimated Al Qaida. Author Sean Naylor, a senior writer for the Army Times, goes into great detail revealing both the incredible heroism of many young soldiers, as well as, the shocking breakdowns in planning and execution among the highest levels of military leadership.

    He describes a battle that showed the deadly limits of technology when operating in unfamiliar terrain, against an unconventional force, and under the watch of military commanders who had been lulled into a false sense of battlefield awareness. As an eyewitness, Naylor's account provides the type of scrutiny and on-the-scene reporting that makes generals queasy. But, don't get this confused with a sterile news story, "Not A Good Day to Die" has all the hallmarks of a, "Black Hawk Down"-style narrative with plenty of intense action.

    Initially stymied by a deal struck between U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command that banned personnel from discussing Operation Anaconda with media, the author had to maneuver one bureaucratic roadblock after another, admitting in the forward that this book was not an easy one to report.

    "Researching and explaining a complex and controversial operation fought by a dozen task forces was always going to be a challenge, despite the advantage I enjoyed having been present at the rehearsals for and some of the combat during Operation Anaconda. But even I, after thirteen years of covering the military, had not expected to find so many obstacles placed in my path by a handful of individuals with reputations to protect." pg. xi

    What happened in the Shahikot Valley that made leaders so unwilling to talk? That's exactly what Naylor sets out to explain. First, was the huge intelligence gap that no one grasped until it was too late. Despite constant UAV coverage, hi-tech signals reconnaissance and multiple NSA resources being directed towards piecing together an accurate picture of the enemy and battlefield, the soldiers went in extremely blind to the realities of what they would be facing. The big takeaway, a glaring lack of reliable human intelligence and a terribly inefficient system to share intelligence among the various services and branches involved.

    Second, the people making most of the decisions where the ones furthest away from the battlefield. Rather than trusting the men on the ground to lead the fight, generals glued to live predator feeds thousands of miles away felt qualified to direct various forces of which they had very little contact or understanding. A centralized command structure trying to keep up with a constantly changing enemy spelled disaster from the beginning. Take for example an episode on the eve of battle where Major General Franklin "Buster" Hagenback, 10th Mtn Division commander requested additional air strikes based on new intelligence from the field.

    "General Hagenback said, `Hey, bomb these frickin' things,' recalled Mikolashek, who was also in the VTC. This request provoked what Mikolshek described as `a little consternation' on the part of CENTCOM participants in general..."Hey, you guys said you wanted this many targets bombed, and not it's all of a sudden this many. What are you doing?' was how Mikolshek characterized Renuart's response...In the end Renuart and Central Command said they would try to arrange the additional air strikes. But Renuart's initial reaction suggested that Central Command was not postured to quickly adapt to changing battlefield circumstances." pg. 187

    As often happens in war, the Captains and Sergeants were called upon to not only defeat the enemy, but overcome the lackluster planning of their superiors. And to this end they did remarkably well. If half of this book is about the failures of those at the top, the other half is a glowing report of the courageous and cool-headed conduct of those on the front lines.

    Between various Spec Ops recon teams that climbed thousands of feet into "unpassable" mountains to gain critical intel, to CIA members stationed in-country who impressed everyone with their intricate knowledge of the area, to Air Force Pararescuemen like Senior Airman Jason Cunningham who was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross for his exemplary conduct in helping save the lives of 10 wounded soldiers, to members of the 101st Airborne and 10th Mountain Division that acted with lethal professionalism as they were flown into clouds of bullets - this book shows the best of our military as well. It is a fitting toast to those who risk their lives on a daily basis and a story that will be told for many years to come....more info
  • A Factual Account of the Battle.
    Without a doubt, this is the most definitive account of Operation Anaconda and the firefight on Takur Ghar (aka Roberts Ridge). The author was in Afghanistan and attached to the units that conducted the operation. He interviewed dozens and dozens of people who were there from the top generals to the basic squad leaders.

    The author does not throw politics (anti-Bush/anti-War) issues into the book. He does lay out a clear sequence of how and why things went the way they did during this battle. He offers critical comments by one source and then allows another source to counter the criticism.

    My only minor issue is that there are so many important people mentioned in this book that I sometimes found it hard to keep track of who was who even with the help of a printed list in the beginning of the book. It also takes about the first 1/3 of the book to cover all the issues that developed during the planning stage, but it is key in helping the reader understand the flow and confusion that resulted in the battle.

    There is a line in the book that sums it up in that sometimes no matter how well intended all the planners were for this operation, tragedy still resulted. This book helps to show that the military is not a machine, but rather a human entity that is capable of making mistakes.
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  • Not accurate
    I served with Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group. From my time serving as a snake eater, I met plenty of Navy SEALs, Rangers, and Delta Force Personnel. A friend recommended this book so I picked it up and finished it within with a few days. I can tell you that the description of the Navy SEALs (razor 03) are inaccurate. The book makes the SEALs seem lacking in ability and skill, in the SEAL community, this book is regarded as an injustice. SEALs are inexperienced, but their training is as difficult as some combat situations are. Also, those SEALs who died in the chopper crash last summer died as a result of the crash where they didn't have a fighting chance. The author of this book seems to hate SEALS, but having spent time in the Special Operations community until recently, I can tell you that the Navy SEALs do live up to their reputation....more info
  • great read
    Great detail. A lot of research and unfortunately a lot of classified information was published....more info
  • The Art of the Possible...
    I recently completed the outstanding book Not a Good Day to Die by Sean Naylor, detailing the events surrounding Operations Anaconda, unknown to most Americans, including myself, prior to reading the book. A few points:

    1. The book is a real tour de force of the art of the possible, detailing the combined actions of some the world's most elite forces: Delta Force, Navy Seals, Army Special Forces, Army Rangers, elite US Light Infantry (101st Airborne Division and 10th Mountain Division), Austrialian SAS, elements of the CIA and NSA, and Afghani militias allied to the United States.

    2. Those lacking a military background may find the first 100 pages confusing, as Naylor details the various command structures and personalities that engineered the operation. Personally I found this section fascinating. Recommend skimming through this section if you just want to get to the direct fire battle.

    3. While highlighting the amazing accomplishments, bravery, and sheer audacity of these units, it also illustrates the absolute necessity of an established chain of command, regardless of the types of units being commanded, the necessity to understand both the capabilities and LIMITATIONS of special operations units-one cannot become so enamoured with these units that they are sent on missions without proper planning and fire support (the initial insertion of the Navy Seal Team Mako 30 on Takur Ghar as described in the book), and last, the importance for any ground commander to understand how to coordinate and use both indirect fires and close air support.

    4. Overall, an incredible read. Despite the anger this book has obviously created in certain parts of the Navy Seal community, I salute Naylor for the obvious work and research that went into creating this book. It's no exaggeration to say that under most circumstances, this book would have never been written.

    Highly recommended. ...more info
  • very good
    excellent reading
    you learn a lot about the operations of the us army and it's units...more info
  • An excellent read on many levels
    This is a riveting book that will produce the full range of emotions from sheer anger to bittersweet sadness to total pride and awe for the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen who did their deeds; often with incomplete information to the best that they could under very chaotic and extreme conditions. The book chronicles Operation Anaconda that occurred in Afghanistan in March of 2002. It can be read on numerous levels. As a battle account it reads like another classic, We Were Soldiers Once and Young. It provides many lessons on communication between different organizations, planning, Chain of Command (and what can happen when that becomes convoluted) and the results of micromanagement from overly politicized higher ups in air-conditioned rooms far away in safe areas.

    The book is very detailed and the author did a great job of researching it from as many perspectives as possible. In fact, some of the information bordered on Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures, that might have been better left not discussed, used by some of our most secretive units such as the AFO of DELTA and even the Special Mission Unit known commonly as "The Activity" that did signal intelligence work in the Area of Operation.

    The value of hard realistic training on basic soldiers skills such as marksmanship, fire and maneuver, battle drills, and battlefield medicine shines through in how well the participants did under fire in what was for many of them their first combat engagement. Another element that impressed me was how good the opposition performed. They were brave fighters who gave no quarter and appeared to fight their battle as best as they could. In fact, if the AFO had not prepared or shaped the battle space as well as they did prior to the first Air Assault the whole Operation could have been disastrous. I would highly recommend this book to those interested in modern battle, Special Operations Forces and any aspiring leaders looking to learn from the experiences of others. For those interested in reading more on Army Special Mission Units the book Killer Elite is also a very informative read.
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  • stark but interesting
    Found this a little dry but it was eye opening. weird way to do business, men...though the warrior code is evident!...more info
  • Not a good day to die
    Your service was great - got the book quickly and the condition is perfect - I will continue to purchase from you - Thanks - ...more info
  • Save yourself
    I feel like the author should somehow reimburse for the time I wasted on this book. In additon to providing the reader with endless obscure details about every officer in the military NOT involved in the fighting, he actually manages to make the few combat sequences boring! It might read something like this:

    "Task force Hammer got shot at by some terrorist guys-they shot back. Meanwhile, back headquarters, command was arguing about whether to use 1" or 0.75" margins on the TPS 145 ZX2 forms. The 1" advocates prevailed."

    If you are planning a congressional investigation into Operation Anaconda and want every, single brain-numbing detail, buy this book. If you want the perspective of the soldiers actually fighting, BUY SOMETHING ELSE....more info
  • Heroes, blunders and action...
    The writer takes you behind the scenes of the one of the biggest sustained fights in the Afghanistan conflict. You can almost feel the bullets fly by in the coarse, direct account of the Anaconda battle. It makes you proud of our military and makes you shake your head at the same time. A marvelous book....more info
  • Army Times writer has little knowledge of what really happened
    Take a look at where this writer is from. Yes, the army times, There is quite some biasm in his book. The author writes of Operation Anaconda from 3rd hand knowledge, has no idea what he's talking about. Bashes the Seals and Hails the army for having saved they day for the SEALS. negative, dead wrong, the same SEAL squad that was with roberts was the first one back in, not the rangers who came 8 hours later. Having heard the AAR (after action report) from the SEAL who was with roberts in the bird, this book cannot be any more inaccurate. Many people have a big misunderstanding that SEALS are a maritime force. Yes they are, they're the best at it, but 98% of their training is land warfare and urban combat, not maritime. Diving and martime operations take up very little of their training program if any, so people who think they have no place on land are dead wrong, they're just ignorant of what a SEAL is and does. Naylor is a reporter, not a soldier, doesn't know the first thing about being a warrior, like the Seals and Rangers that were on the ground. The unknowing reader may takes Naylor's garbage as fact, but it's not. If you want to read an inaccurate, bias 3rd person account of Operation Anaconda from an ignorant coward, read this book. A book is in the making of what really happened written firsthand by one of the Seals in the helo with Roberts during Anaconda....more info
  • Did everyone here read the same book?
    One review says that this book was great, the next says its a waste of time. One guy can't even spell Afghanistan correctly. So should I waste my money or not?...more info
  • I really enjoyed this book
    Not a Good Day to Die: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda is a well researched and written book. It kept me engaged. Highly recommended!
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  • Operation Anaconda
    The book is a very thorough account of a battle, Operation Anaconda, which you will find after reading this book, was not very accurately reported in the press before or since it happened in the mountains of Afghanistan in early 2002. I have reviewed many newspaper accounts of the battle that were published during or shortly after the battle. After reading this book, some of them remind me of the "Five-o'clock follies" as the press briefings given to reporters during the Vietnam War were labeled.

    If I had a bone to pick over this book it might be that there is a possible bias towards the Army. That being said I should note that while seldom reported in the press, it was stupid decisions by Army brass and poorly coordinated intelligence that got most of the Americans killed. Of course, second-guessing the quarterback[s] (plural in this case) is easier than having to make the bad decisions during the heat of battle. The SEALs, some of them anyway, also were shown in a less than flattering light. I have seen so many TV documentaries of SEAL training that I was sure that they were only second to the Brit or Aussie SAS in military excellence, and that walking on water was taught early in their training.

    There are a couple of certified losers, one being the Air Force brigadier general, a Gregory Trebon, and the "idiots" who wouldn't listen to the sage advice of the book's super hero, an Army LTCOL named Pete Blaber. Those not on the scene insisted on pulling tactical command from Blaber and then being certifiably insane by having two helos in a super hot LZ. This is what resulted in the most, and apparently avoidable, American deaths.

    The account of what really happened to an Air Force Tech Sergeant assigned to assist the Special Forces still is at odds with the account I just read in A recent Air Force Association magazine [this months, to be exact]. I think the author, Sean Naylor's best guess at what really happened is probably the most accurate version.

    You can't read this book without marveling at the incredible courage and determination of most of the participants, regardless of which service they were in. Even the CIA seems to deserve praise for their efforts, at least the local agents on the ground with the Special Forces.

    All in all this book is a superb account of a battle that will probably be studied at military academies in the future as an example of what NOT to do. It also reinforces the old saying that in war the first casualty is truth, at least in the regular press and media. We'll never know with certainty what REALLY happened but my gut feeling is this book is as close as we will ever come.

    I believe some of the "stupid" decisions and comments both during and after the operation by the brass arose from "normal" inter-service sniping and the desire to ensure that super trained forces all got a chance to be in the battle. That will never change and in defense of Air Force General Trebon, who was trained as a cargo pilot, not a ground battle tactician, it would seem he had to deal with that reality and was damned if he did, and damned if he didn't.
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  • American Heros
    Excellent book, an inside look at a significant US military battle. The book describes the courage and dedication of our armed forces and the gut-wrenching reality of armed conflict. This battle represents a lesson that has had to be relearned to many times: Unity of Command is essential to combat success....more info
  • Very well organized, well written war story!
    I have to say this is a very well written war book. I have read close to 10 books lately relating to the Iraqi and Aghan wars. Most of those books started off fine, then when the battles rages on, the authors also lost focus and organization and have the story-tellings also fallen in chaos and confusion. And, however, this book is one of the few exception, from start to end, the author did an outstanding job in presenting the background, the planning, the preparation, the minutes of the battles and shifting scenes of the chaos in the mountain in a very organized fashion. Quite frankly, it's one of the rare that i could actually understand and follow the development of the battles in different part of the mountains happening simultaneously. I really think this showed the difference of skills between some amateur writers and a veteran military writer. ...more info
  • Dogged reporting
    This may be the best-reported book I've ever read. Sean Naylor labored for two years to document Operation Anaconda, the botched March 2002 attempt to capture or kill several hundred al-Qaida guerrillas in eastern Afghanistan's Shahikot Valley. He succeeded brilliantly, despite the attempts of the military brass to thwart him. And you quickly understand why they were so desperate to conceal the truth. The operation was undone by self-inflicted mistakes from the top: a confused chain of command; deliberate decisions to limit the numbers of troops, weapons and helicopters in the field; jaw-dropping examples of miscommunication between the patchwork of units assembled to carry out the attack; overconfidence on the part of Pentagon officials who were already moving past Afghanistan and preparing for a war with Iraq. Naylor strives to be fair, but doesn't hesitate to draw conclusions and make judgments about who was to blame for putting U.S. troops in an uphill (literally) fight against a bigger-than-expected and surprisingly well-armed enemy force. He also provides inspiring examples of individual heroism: pilots who took big risks to get the wounded to safety and provide close air support for troops trapped on the ground; special forces operators who prevented what could have been a military tragedy by scaling mountains and trudging through snowdrifts to gather intelligence on al-Qaeda positions; inexperienced NCOs who proved themselves under fire; medics who worked through their own wounds to tend to fallen comrades. The downside of Naylor's authoritative reporting, however, is an excess of unnecessary detail. Especially in the first half of the book, he seems to unload his notepad, describing almost every planning meeting and listing the participants. He also is a bit too fond of military jargon and acronyms, referring for example to the video-teleconference, familiar even to many of us who don't wear fatigues, as a "VTC.'' But these are symptoms of a man on a mission, determined to provide the authoritative account of Operation Anaconda. Mission accomplished....more info
  • Poorly written
    this story could been written as a single chapter, the book has limited info and packed with a lot of unnecessary details...more info
  • Great Narrative but Definitely Biased
    I usually read fiction just because it interests me more and flows more quickly. However, due to working in Afghanistan, I bought this and figured I would force myself through it.

    First of all, I thought the story itself was very well written. I didn't get bored and want to skip over paragraphs of description or narrative. The chronology was easy to follow and relevant. Naylor did a good job with his interviews and research for this project.

    On the not so great side, I agree with every other reviewer who is demanding maps. Even working in the region and understanding military protocol, I couldn't picture in my mind where each unit was on the mountain or its movement.

    Also, Naylor is extremely biased for the Army soldier on the ground. Most of his criticism is saved for the Naval personnel--especially SEALs--and commanders at CFLCC, CENTCOM, etc. I agree that the soldiers out there were heroes, but the Army isn't perfect and the Navy isn't satan incarnate.

    I think this book is best read with the knowledge that there are always at least two sides to each story, and with a situation having as many players as Operation Anaconda had, scores of sides. It is a great review of the operation overall, along with how different units work under these circumstances and a very detailed history leading up to the March 2002 events. I would recommend reading other works on Operation Anaconda, however, to get a broader picture, and also check out "Roberts Ridge" when it is published at the end of August 2005....more info
  • Most outstanding book on Afghan/Iraq conflicts
    I've ready many/most of the most popular books on our recent engagements in the War on Terror, but this is by far the most outstanding effort I've come across so far. We're all aware that most of the administration's (read that as Rumsfeld/Cheney) actions since 9/11 have placed us in more danger, not less. However, what's been discussed obliquely, but often overlooked, is the complicity that Tommy Franks shares during this period. While "Not a Good Day..." is not a direct study of Franks, it is still a reflection of the problems that trickle down from the Rumsfeldian method of armed engagement (as opposed to the Powell Doctrine) where there is the enforced perception that the "best fighting force in the world" is more machine than man, and as such is composed of interchangeable parts. Franks allowed this mistaken approach to become practice, both in Afghanistan and Iraq. While true to some extent, it is more true that our military is a product of training, and that the training is multi-faceted in the bringing together of different disciplines and systems. One of the most important aspects of that training is learning how those that you train (war-game) with operate, learning in the process how to best interact as a team. When pieces of these well-oiled machines are torn apart and reassembled willy-nilly the results are predictable...

    Just as Tora Bora was a failure, so was Anaconda. For all the success in body count (and there were a few folks that never stepped out of that valley again), the high-value targets (hvt) probably skipped away through gaps in the perimeter. The author speculates about two particular hvt's that most likely did get away. And this against a backdrop of a plan that was completely designed specifically to entrap all the enemy combatants...

    I highly recommend this book to anyone that would like some insights into what we do well and what we don't. Sometimes they are the same things, but undertaken by different folks (compare the performances of the Delta teams to the Seal teams - and if there are Seal supporters out there, and we know there are, then speak up in defense of a reasonable rebuttal to the authors assertions, especially with respect to the performance of the teams on Tahkur Ghar, both that of Mako 30 as well as the team that "guarded" the exfil LZ)....more info
  • Not a Good Day to Die: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda by Sean Naylor
    One of the best books I've read on Operation Anaconda. Loaded with a lot of information, to some people it may be to much information.Its not your Black Hawk Down or Ambush Alley type of read.Very well written and engaging. ...more info
  • Worth the time and money
    Overall this was a good book on the operations in Afghanistan. I completed it in 3 days because it was easy to read (for someone who loves military history) and quite interesting. I was especially intrigued with the details provided regarding the Neil Roberts incident (the SEAL that fell off the Chinook which resulted in a failed rescue and several more dead SEALs)

    The only thing that kept me from giving this book 5 stars is the author's editorials within the text. I got the impression that he was not particularily fond of the SEALs or their inclusion in Afghanistan since it is a 'land mission'. While I agree with the premise that their role should be limited (not including SEAL team 6), I'm skeptical that their leadership is as half-baked as is made out in the book.

    That aside, the author is obviously quite knowledgeable and tells a very good story which is consistent with other sources I have read, yet fills in a LOT of details that I have not found elsewhere. I would definitely recommend this book....more info
  • the best tactical battle book since "Black Hawk Down"
    While an amazing piece of military history, this book is not for those with only a passing knowledge of the U.S. military. The author works for the Army Times, an independent, but military jargon heavy newspaper. While I loved the book, unless you use terms like FARP, COCOM, UAV, SAW, and JTF at least once a week, you may find yourself lost. The author combines his experience being embedded with an airborne unit during a large Afghan operation and follows it up with hundreds of interviews, including many with SOCOM operators.

    The first 2/3 of the book provides a great deal of background info at the operational and tactical level. The inability of senior Army leadership to fight an insurgent force is obvious in the ad-hoc method of command and control. What continually amazed me was the flexible and positive attitude of the junior officers and NCOs. Despite the General Offices being completely untrained to lead a post 9/11 war, the Lts, Captains, and Sgts made it all work.

    The last third of the book was simply amazing. I was up until 2:00 A.M. reading it until the end. I will not spoil what occurs, but you have to read it. You will not believe what occurs. The U.S. military is the most powerful and capable force that every existed. To read what happened on the mountain tops of Afghanistan was unbelievable. The book comes downs particularly hard on the Navy SEALS and NAVSOC leadership, but speaks highly of the Rangers and the often criticized 10th Mountain Division. It was interesting that "Black Hawk Down" and this book both center around 12 hour intense tactical engagements caused by the shoot down of a multi-million dollar special operations helicopter by a $50.00 RPG
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  • Operation Anacoda Warts And All
    I saw in doing research for this review that Amazon has 103 reviews of this book already so I am probably not going to break any new ground here by writing a Von Clausewitz style tactical and strategic analysis cum book review. I'll provide instead my impressions of the book and the writing style and leave the deep military and political questions to those more capable of it than myself.

    Impression 1:
    A reader could safely skim or even skip the first hundred pages. They are a contextual build-up for the actual story of combat operations in the mountains of Afghanistan and the war stories of the men who fought them. A detailed description of the CentCom command structure or how night vision goggles work, or the difference between Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and CIA jargon and slang wasn't all that interesting to me.

    Impression 2:
    Unity of command is vital. Ignore it at your peril.

    Impression 3:
    The Navy SEALs don't come out of this looking very good.

    Impression 4:
    The Army lost two helicopters and half a dozen Airmen, Army Rangers and Navy SEALs killed and many more injured in order to "rescue" one guy who they knew or should have known was already way beyond help and probably dead. The "no man left behind " idea needs some rethinking and context applied to it IMHO.

    Impression 5:
    This is a good 300-page book that goes to over 400 pages. Brevity is the soul of journalism in my opinion. The book should have been more concise and better edited.

    With all that said I would recommend this book as the definitive story of Operation Anaconda.
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  • Military malaise
    This account is outstanding, it's command of the facts, the authors' grasp of their significance and of course in the tension and pace of the writing. For anyone who wants to know a little of what unfolded in Anaconda, and will not settle for sub-amateur telivision journalism, this book is a must. I was astounded by the polarity between the bravery and sheer guts of the men in the field, compared to the lack of performance (often utter negligence) from the Brigade level of command, and up. As someone more than familiar with Israel's participation in the Second Lebanese War, (Operations officer of reserve infantry battalion) I was struck by the similarities: the curious belief of senior command that a battle can be managed via plasma screens from far, far away, and the valour, sacrifice and the waste of good men. The incoherence and obtuse Command and Control and the subsequent effort by the High Command to dress it up as a victory - mainly by riding on the valiant and gritty fight put up by the men in the field. If America's generals sincerely believe that this was a success, then unfortunately, more of the same will come, and it will likely be much worse....more info
  • Good, Yet Too Detailed Read For Most Readers
    I really liked this book for the exact reasons that many others didn't -- the detail. As someone who served in Afghanistan on two occassions, I am less interested in the 'blood and guts' battle scenes and more in the behind-the-scenes stories that go into intelligence and planning. Granted, the story at times gets bogged down in seemingly insignificant details, but I felt the overall pacing was good. The backgrounds and personalities of the individuals portrayed gave a good sense of the men who were fighting, planning, and organizing Operation Anaconda. From what I understand, many people at SOCOM hated this book because of the details provided which means Naylor hit a homerun in getting his facts straight.

    Definately not a book for all tastes, but if you like books that focus on the minutia, then this one is for you. For good combat action, read 'Blackhawk Down' or 'Ambush Alley'....more info
  • Great book
    Lots of detail and well researched. A classic with a wealth of info and perspective. Read it and be grateful to those who are out there fighting for us....more info
  • An Overconfident Military Runs into a Buzzsaw
    A tale of US military hubris, Not A Good Day to Die tells how an overconfident and ill-prepared American force encounters an entrenched and determinded enemy, and ends up in a much more vicious battle than planned.

    Sean Naylor does a great job detailing how the US Army's Operation Anaconda went wrong right from the start. Poor intelligence, inept inter-service planning, and a shaky command structure created a near disaster for American forces.

    The heroes in this book are Special Operations Forces and US Army grunts. The same can't be said for the generals making life and death decisions. Naylor takes a dim view of US military leadership from the Pentagon all the way down to the generals in Afghanistan.

    America may have won the battle, but suffered a major setback by possibly allowing high level Al Qaeda members to escape.

    Slow at first, this book rewards persistence. Halfway through, the story picks up steam as the operation begins. Naylor's battlefield descriptions are riveting.

    This book is worth reading for the second half alone. It's a great war story. A must-read for those interested in an inside look at the War on Terror....more info